With Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, Seth Jones, and Aleksander Barkov all off the board, in that order, the Canes Country staff decided to select Valeri Nichushkin with Carolina's pick, the fifth overall of the draft.
Nichushkin seems to be the consensus pick at this spot by most scouting services, but of course he does not come without some risk. At 6'4 inches and over 200 pounds, he certainly has the size that Carolina fans have been craving. He also has the skill set to bring fans out of their seats.
Most scouting services and pundits have him ranked at either four or five in this draft.
Here is what some of the top scouting services had to say about the potential superstar:
Nichushkin is the absolute beast of the bunch having grown to gargantuan proportions (6-4, 202 pounds) while retaining the fluidity and elusiveness in his stride, and his trademark vision and playmaking abilities. His hands are both strong and soft, and he's able to control the puck like he has it on a string. It's almost unfair how easy it is for him to just walk down even strong defensemen and take the puck straight to the net at will.
"He’s a guy with all kinds of talent. He’s big, he’s a tremendous skater, but in February at the Under-18 tournament, that was maybe the most dominant performance I’ve seen at any of those Under-18 or World Junior tournaments. He absolutely took over the tournament. He was good on the forecheck, he was finishing checks, he was making plays or scored big goals in the third period when his team was behind, he never quit on a shift and he was just spectacular. I think when you see that potential and the level he played at in the Russian men’s league, you see a very good prospect."
Caveat: "He’s got great one-on-one individual skills with the puck, and that was maybe the problem with him, is that you thought maybe he didn’t see the other options and he didn’t play with other players real well."
Comparable NHL Players: Alex Ovechkin or Evgeni Malkin
The package of size, skill, and sheer dynamic ability that Valeri Nichushkin brings to the table has some considering him as not only a Top 3 talent, but someone who could be worthy of top honours. The Chelyabinsk native made a big splash on the world stage over Christmas showing flashes of the dynamic skillset many NHL teams will covet.
Nichushkin is particularly strong off the rush, similar to players like Rick Nash. He does a great job of attacking lanes and driving his body through defenders to the net where an accurate shot and quality puck handling make him an impressive threat. Consistency is the main area of concern with his game at this point in time.
But even with all the superlatives being thrown out there, like with most prospects there are some questions. A couple of scouts have mentioned that he needs work on his defense and he is inconsistent. A couple of others say that he seems "selfish" with the puck and does not complement his teammates well.
Over at the Copper and Blue, they ran a "comparables" report which showed that Nichushkin scored fewer goals and points in his draft year than some of his peers, such as Vladimir Tarasenko. The season prior to his draft year was even lower.
The following is from that article:
Another thing that might help is looking at Nichushkin's Draft -1 season. Nichushkin spent that year in the MHL, Russia's top junior league, and it just so happens that quite a few Russians did the same before heading to North America for their draft year over the last few seasons. That means comparing Draft -1 seasons should give us a larger sample of talented Russian players who are receiving a reasonable amount of ice time. In the chart below I've included all of the players listed in the Consensus Top 100 for 2013, as well as any players drafted inside the top 100 from 2012 or 2011:
So, does he have the numbers to back up his high rating?
Also, while the Russian has committed to playing in the NHL next season versus the KHL, (where he is under contract), he has also stated that he will return to Russia before he plays in the AHL, if he fails to make an NHL roster. Many general managers do not like being dictated to by a rookie as to how they will be developed.
While they are not as flashy and explosive as Nichushkin, there are two forwards who have a better two-way game and are very solid in Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm and the Hurricanes will be looking very hard at them in this spot.
Or, the Hurricanes could roll the dice and try to land a big, physical franchise defenseman in either Darnell Nurse or Nikita Zadorov.
But the Alexander Semin factor weighs heavy here, Jim Rutherford is familiar with Nichushkin's agent, who is the same as Semin's, and there is too much upside to ignore.
It was not as easy of a decision as many would think, but Valeri Nichushkin is the choice.
(To see all the picks, check out SB Nation Mock Draft 2013)